Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten Statements About....A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

This man was something like the tenth choice to play this
character....and now the two are inextricably linked.
Get three coffins ready."

1) Sergio Leone loves faces...which is probably why he needed Clint Eastwood to make this and the other two pictures that make up 'The Man With No Name Trilogy' (try not to remember that every character Eastwood plays in these films has a name). The way Eastwood's thoughts can be seen in his eyes, mouth and expressions is priceless.

2) I find it interesting that we're never, ever given any indication of Eastwood's Joe's motivations. The only thing we can safely say Joe is doing for purely altruistic reasons is when he aids Marisol (Marriane Koch) in reuniting her with her husband and son and escaping. And even there there's some doubt that his stated reasons are true.

This is the closest thing we have to a romantic lead...and
she's outta her by the end of the second act.

3) Speaking of Marisol...Leone's West is not exactly female-friendly. The only women in this film are Marisol, who is a cypher utilized only as a plot device to deepen the war between the Rojos and The Baxters, and Mrs. Baxter, who is a scheming Lady MacBeth-ish villain with no real second dimension.

4) I know everyone talks about the Morricone score being a vital part of this film--but it's not just the score.  The entire audio track is pretty much a character. Even when there's no dialogue, the noises in the background serve to keep the film vivid and alive.

5) I can imagine easily how this film, and the two following it, made Eastwood something of a counterculture hero...after all, who does he choose to hang out with? A gravedigger, a fat saloon keeper and a crazy bellringer....this is not a man who likes to pal around with authority.

"You know, Stuart...I like you.  You're not like all the other
people in the trailer park."
6) As physically capable as Joe is, I like how he ultimately gets his triumph through intelligence and keeping an ear open. The way the final confrontation plays out is solely because Eastwood's character chooses his word wisely.

7) I love how the color palette in this film is very different from the palette of American westerns of the time. Leone desaturates everything and emphasizes monochrome compositions--everything is earth tones, to the point where, when some military men show up toward the end of act one, their dark blue uniforms are a shock....

8) I think--contrary to what Charles Bronson thought when he turned down the role of Joe--the script is really clever. When it's mentioned how the Rojos control the liquor trade in the first act, you know that'll come into play later. How it comes into play may seem a surprise.

9) I was struck at the dark humor that infuses the film, a dark humor that seems lost on most people.

10) If we're to believe the stories, the look of Eastwood in this film was a hodge-podge of found items from both America and Italy. It's a case of happy accidents coming together to create lightning in a bottle. least favorite of the Dollars Trilogy (the next one takes the gold in my eyes), but just because it's the least of three doesn't mean it isn't a powerful cinematic punch in the gut.

No comments:

Post a Comment